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Tiny Texas Town Likes to Say It Inspired the Hollywood Sign

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There's been a funny tale about the birth of the Hollywood Sign circulating in the tiny town of Mineral Wells, Texas (estimated 2012 population: 16,731): the story goes that The Birth of a Nation director DW Griffith visited Mineral Wells in the late 1920s and was so struck by its giant "WELCOME" sign that he carried word of it back to Los Angeles, where he created the Hollywood Sign. AF Weaver's book Images of America: Mineral Wells says that the Mineral Wells sign was donated in 1922 by the president of the Texas Rotary Club, who had it built in his San Antonio Iron Works, according to the Portal to Texas History. That site also says "[Griffith] developed the 'HOLLYWOOD HILLS' addition with other partners when he returned to California, and he erected what is probably the most recognizable landmark in America: The HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles." Both sources add that DW Griffith produced the Keystone Kops. All of this is very wrong.

For one thing, Griffith had nothing at all to do with the Hollywood Sign or the Hollywoodland development it was built to advertise. The sign was put up by LA Times publisher Harry Chandler, a partner in Hollywoodland with investors Eli P. Clark and MH Sherman of the Clark and Sherman Real Estate Company and developers Tracy E. Shoults and SH Woodruff. For another thing, even the Mineral Wells historians don't put Griffith in the town until 1927, or possibly 1928, or maybe 1929. The town and its mineral springs were a popular Hollywood getaway and Richard Schickel's DW Griffith: An American Life says Griffith stopped there to dry out in the "last spring of the decade," meaning 1929 (according to telegrams, he stayed at the Crazy Hotel). The Hollywood Sign had been built back in 1923.

There is one Mineral Wells connection to the Hollywood Hills: the Mineral Wells Canyon near the Old Zoo in Griffith Park (which was named for Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the land, so hold your horses there, Mineral Wells historians); it's famous as the starting point of a 1933 fire that killed dozens of amateur firefighters.

And Mack Sennett produced the Keystone Kops.
· A welcome sign Iconic greeting possibly the inspiration for its Hollywood counterpart [MineralWellsIndex.com]